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Cooking show derails Thai prime minister

BANGKOK, Thailand — Thailand's prime minister was forced out of office Tuesday after a court ruled that he had broken a conflict-of-interest law by hosting TV cooking shows.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's supporters immediately vowed to bring him back to power, leaving Thailand in the deep political crisis that has virtually paralyzed the government, spooked the financial markets and scared away tourists.

Samak, 73, hosted a popular television cooking show — Tasting and Complaining — for seven years before becoming prime minister. But he also made several appearances after taking office, breaking a constitutional prohibition on private employment while in office.

Chat Chonlaworn, the head of the Constitutional Court, ruled that Samak's Cabinet must also leave office, but will stay on as a caretaker government until a new administration is installed.

"The defendant has violated Article 267 of the constitution, and his position as prime minister has ended," said Chat, the head of the nine-judge panel, explaining that the ruling meant Samak himself was immediately removed from office.

Parliament will meet Friday to vote on a new prime minister, and all parties can nominate candidates.

The People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been trying to force Samak's resignation by occupying the grounds of the prime minister's office, said it would stay put at least until the vote.

Tuesday's court judgment, broadcast live on television and radio, was greeted with loud cheers and claps from Samak's opponents.

Cooking show derails Thai prime minister 09/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:24pm]
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